The 3 best Collaborative robot arms to tend any machine

January 7, 2024
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About Collaborative robots

Before diving into how robot arms can be used for machine tending, let's briefly discuss Collaborative robots.

These robots, also called Cobots, have been designed for a variety of tasks, and to work safely alongside humans. Additionally, safety features ensure that these robots do not endanger human workers.

Cobots are still relatively new in the robotic industry, meaning their potential uses are still being explored. However, these kinds of robotic arms are becoming increasingly popular within the manufacturing industry, where they can be used for machine tending, material handling, and the automation of repetitive processes.

What is robot arm machine tending?

Collaborative robots are commonly used for machine tending. But, what does this mean?

Machine tending can be defined as loading or unloading a machine with either parts or materials. Typically, these processes are performed by humans.

Many modern manufacturing shops use CNC machines, which are tended by humans who place raw material into the machine and remove it once the machine has completed its task. But, as technology develops, robots are increasingly being used for these tasks.

However, robotic arms can be used to tend to more than just CNC machines. Cobot arms can perform machine tending processes on an endless loop, as long as the robot receives the raw materials or parts.

Here's a closer look at how Collaborative robot arms are used in machine tending automation and the benefits they offer:

  • Loading and unloading: As mentioned, one of the main functions of a robotic arm is machine tending - loading raw materials or parts into a machine, and then unloading the finished product. This could be a CNC machine, injection molding machine, press, or any other industrial equipment.
  • Consistency: Robotic arms can perform the same process repeatedly with the same level of accuracy. This is typically difficult for humans to achieve, especially if working for a long time in unpleasant (e.g. hot or loud) conditions.
  • Safety: Machine tending robotic arms can tackle tasks that are either unsafe or ergonomically difficult for humans, such as working with heavy, sharp, or hot materials.
  • Flexibility: Modern Cobot arms are flexible. The software used to program the robot can be updated and reconfigured, allowing a single robotic arm to perform various tasks or tend to different machines. This allows for a quicker production process and a quick changeover of production lines to different product designs or materials.
  • Integration: Cobots can be integrated with other systems, like machine vision or computer-aided manufacturing. This allows for complex operations, such as quality inspection.
  • Improved productivity: When you automate machine tending, productivity increases. Robots can work non-stop, increasing output and freeing up humans to work on more strategic tasks.
  • Cost-effective: Yes, Cobot arms have a high initial investment. But, over time, these machine tending bots will reduce labor costs, improve efficiency, and increase output, offering companies a quick return on investment.

It is clear to see why Collaborative robot arms have increased in popularity across the world. These bots increase productivity, safety, and efficiency in manufacturing processes through automation of material handling and tending to various types of machinery.

Our top three Collaborative robot arms for machine tending

With this understanding of how Collaborative robot arms function in manufacturing environments, let's discuss the best Cobot arms for a variety of machine tending processes.

1. RO1 by Standard Bots

Look no further than the RO1 by Standard Bots if you're seeking a robot to take over your machine tending.

Not only is it the most affordable robotic arm on the market, starting at $5/hour, but it also has the highest payload (39 lbs/18 kg). On top of this, it is one of the fastest robotic arms that does not sacrifice accuracy.

The RO1 is a Six-Axis robot that can sense its surroundings and seamlessly integrate into any machining setup.

Coding a Cobot can be challenging, but there is no coding or programming needed with the RO1. It can be programmed to:

  • Pick up raw materials
  • Open and close CNC doors
  • Receive a signal when a machine has completed its task
  • Remove completed products
  • Place or remove machine parts

It can also be easily integrated with any CNC machine, laser engraver, lathe, or mill thanks to the onboard I/O.

2. UR10e by Universal Robots

The UR10e is a versatile robot, with a max payload of 27.55 lbs (12.5 kg). Due to its medium size, it can integrate into several applications, including machine tending.

The UR10e is the most popular Cobot produced by Universal Robots. The software package allows the UR10e to be easily reprogrammable for different machine tending tasks, including:

  • CNC tending
  • Press brakes
  • Stamping brakes
  • Injection molding

One standout feature is Universal Robot's patented force-limiting technology. This ensures that the robotic arm can handle fine materials without the need for a force sensor.

Its reach is similar to that of the RO1, at 4.2 ft (1.3 m); however, it is on the more expensive side, requiring a greater initial investment.


FANUC is a leading robot manufacturer in Europe. Their lightweight CRX-10iA/L robotic arm is highly functional, picking parts placed in front of it and feeding them to a machine.

It has the lowest load capacity of all the robots on this list, at 22 lbs (10 kg); however, it can still be used for machine tending of lighter products.

A great feature of the CRX-10iA/L is the "contact stop function". The sensors in the robotic arm will sense when a human touches it, halting the robot's operation.

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What to consider when choosing a Collaborative robot arm?

Below we'll discuss some important factors to consider when you're looking to purchase a Collaborative robot arm for your machine tending operations

Payload and reach

The maximum payload and the reach of the robot arm are important to consider. If a robot has to load heavy materials, you're going to want to look for a Cobot arm with a higher payload. The RO1 is a good choice here, as it has a max payload of just under 40 lbs and a reach exceeding 4 ft.

Speed, accuracy, and efficiency

Accuracy and speed are incredibly important. Your business will require a robot arm that can perform the same tasks with consistent accuracy, faster than a human would. This will result in an increased output and faster production speed.


The cost of a robotic arm will impact your return on investment (ROI) and also your revenue.

Before making the purchase, consider your budget and get a clear idea of the costs involved. However, the cost doesn't only include the Cobot arm itself, as you also have to consider:

  • End-effectors and other accessories
  • Installation
  • Programming
  • Maintenance
  • Integration

These costs can quickly mount, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to automate machine tending operations.


The end-effector is the "hand" of the robotic arm. There are different types of end-effectors, each designed for a specific purpose.

The end-effector for a machine tending robotic arm will depend on the exact materials or parts it will be handling, but ideally, the arm should be compatible with grippers, magnets, and suction cups.


Integration is an important factor to consider when installing new Cobot arms. Robots must be able to seamlessly integrate with existing manufacturing systems.

In some instances, this will require advanced programming, while other Cobots have "plug and play" features with simple user interfaces.

Consider the skills of your human workers and if there is anyone trained in programming robotic arms to complete machine tending tasks.


Collaborative robots have been specifically designed to work safely alongside humans. They have several safety features, like rounded edges and sensors, to ensure human safety. Many Cobots can also adjust their speed limits, allowing them to work slower when people are nearby.

If you plan to have your Cobot arm work among humans, then it is important to consider the various safety features of each robot before making a choice.


Which other robots can be used in machine tending operations?

Apart from Cobots, the other types of robots that can be used for machine tending are:

  • Articulated robots
  • SCARA robots
  • Cartesian robots, including Gantry robots
  • Delta robots
  • Parallel robots
  • Six-Axis robots

Are there different types of robotic arms?

Yes, Collaborative robots are just one type of robotic arm. Other types include Cartesian robots, SCARA bots, Polar robots, and Cylindrical robots. Each of these arms has unique applications in the manufacturing industry.

How much does a robot arm cost?

The cost will vary depending on the size, reach, and payload of the robotic arm. You can expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $400,000 per robotic arm. Also keep in mind additional costs, like installation, programming, and maintenance fees.

Final thoughts

There are many other Collaborative robot arms on the market; however, our top three picks are sure to meet your needs.

Of the three, Standard Bots' RO1 comes out on top in terms of machine tending. It has the highest payload, a good reach, and can be acquired for as little as $5/hour, making it an incredibly affordable option.

Not sure about the RO1 yet? Make sure to reach out to Standard Bots to organize a free trial and see the abilities of this robotic arm for yourself.

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